New Zealand’s medical marijuana industry is making tentative progress but is still being stymied by local government and regulatory authorities, whilst other countries are taking a more assertive approach.
Despite being made legal in 2020, medicinal cannabis is not easily accessible or affordable for most New Zealanders, and over 90% of users are currently being forced to get access through the black market. This is despite a clear growing demand from users for help with various ailments from anxiety, seizures and chronic pain, right through to cancers and Parkinson disease.
At the time of this writing there are 43 medicinal cannabis licence holders in various stages of development and funding. Some of the bigger players include Biolumic, Rua Bioscience, Helius Therapeutics, Puro, and NZX listed Cannasouth. Still more companies are developing their business model to meet the Ministry of Health’s stringent requirements, and become approved by Medsafe. As the industry matures we should see NZ start to catch up with the progress already made from Canada, USA and Australia. The potential to NZ is akin to what has happened with the kiwifruit or wine industry, and could add billions of dollars to our economy in the near-term, and provide for thousands of new jobs. In the USA, illicit cannabis sales are estimated to be more than $100 billion per year. As more and more states are approved for medical sales, then the legal portion of the industry will catch up. It is predicted that by 2026 the legal market will reach $41 billion in annual sales.
With exponential growth in demand, the quality and professionalism of new entrants to the market, and the proven ability New Zealand has shown to diversify its economy into new areas, the opportunity is hear and being seized by some brave forward-thinking entrepreneurs. We, in New Zealand, can only hope that our government officials can start to grasp a good understanding of the positive impact this fledging industry could have on our economy, and play catch up to what is already happening in countries such as USA, Canada and Australia. I see the first steps towards helping our country move forward and make good informed and unbiased decisions is to provide information to help get around the negative stigma that marijuana has been unjustly tainted with for far too long.